IKEA Making Waves in Certified Seafood

Furniture giant IKEA has announced that it has become the world’s largest foodservice provider of responsibly sourced seafood, with all seafood products in its foodservice offering now Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified. In 2014, IKEA foodservice was worth US$1,520.1 million, and with a seafood range encompassing 23 different species across stores in 47 markets, IKEA’s decision to source responsibly marks a milestone in the wider effort to conserve global fish stocks.

Although consumer foodservice accounts for a small portion of overall revenue, the restaurants are hugely popular, and in Germany IKEA ranks among the top 10 consumer foodservice brands with many consumers visiting an IKEA outlet exclusively to eat. The self-service cafeterias act as a central component in the longstanding strategy of promoting the company’s Swedish origin, with traditional Swedish meatballs being a top seller and traditionally prepared salmon products accounting for a significant portion of the seafood range.

IKEA puts MSC/ASC in the fast-lane

Sourcing MSC/ASC certified produce is likely to strike the right chord with consumers; however, MSC/ASC look set to gain the most through the partnership as their reach expands beyond current boundaries. Western Europe is still suffering from a eurozone crisis hangover, and despite accounting for 62% of total sales in 2014, IKEA has a negative CAGR of 1% forecast through 2019, compared to a global figure of 3%.

This has fuelled IKEA’s current prospecting into unfamiliar waters. MSC and ASC find themselves passengers in the pioneering effort, with IKEA potentially providing the certifiers a massive opportunity to highlight food sustainability issues and responsible sourcing on a genuinely global level as it expands into developing markets. So far, IKEA’s expansion has been fruitful, with the highest growth levels being experienced in markets the company has recently entered and anticipation remains high for markets that it has expressed intent to enter.

The wider issue of responsible sourcing

IKEA’s strategy has been welcomed by global environmental groups and the MSC/ASC have been swift to highlight how profound the sustainability issue is. 90% of the world’s fish stocks are “either fully exploited or over exploited” and for IKEA to source produce solely from MSC/ASC certified suppliers further solidifies its position as a global sustainability leader.

Ethical certification and labelling in some of these markets is still in its infancy, and a global giant like IKEA offering universal certification on seafood products might be the spark needed to ignite the trend toward ethical consumerism that has been maturing in developed markets for years. CEO of ASC, Chris Ninnes, has hailed IKEA’s decision as a “game changer” in the campaign to ensure that seafood is sought from farms that “respect the environment, the rights of workers and the interests of the local community”.

The decision to only source certified seafood is in line with IKEA’s wider sustainability foodservice strategy, the company having earlier this year introduced a vegetarian adaptation of its hugely successful Swedish meatballs to the market, citing a significantly reduced carbon footprint as the reasoning behind the vegetarian alternative. The focus on sustainability does not stop at foodservice, with 76% of its cotton and 41% of its wood coming from sustainable sources, and 100% of paper coming from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified sources.

Changing public perception

IKEA’s 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Report highlights the challenges that IKEA faces with company survey results showing that just 41% of customers view IKEA as a company that engages in social and environmental responsibility, compared with 83% of IKEA employees. By 2017, IKEA intends these targets to reach 70% and 95%, respectively, and with responsibly sourced seafood to add to its growing inventory of sustainable offerings, the goal to win hearts and minds ahead of 2017 is well underway.